Futures Research

Futures Research is an outgrowth of the Systems Approach and Operations Research, and its principal aim is to facilitate long-range planning. This is accomplished by forecasting from the past supported by mathematical models, cross-disciplinary treatment of subject matter, systematic use of expert judgment, and systems-analytical approach to problems.

In the late 1960s to the early 1970s it emerged as a distinct field of study. Unlike traditional disciplines, Futures Research attempts to deal with social problems in original and novel ways. The three primary goals of Futures Research are to form perceptions of the future (the possible), study likely alternatives (the probable), and make choices to bring about particular events (the preferable).

The principles of Futures Research include (1) the unity or interconnectedness of reality, (2) the crucial importance of time, and (3) the significance of ideas. Futurists do not view the world as a hodgepodge of unconnected entities acting in arbitrary or random fashion, coincidentally interacting without purpose or meaning.

Furthermore, futurists are not preoccupied with immediate concerns although they do not discount them. Futurists tend to focus on time frames of five years and beyond, believing that in most organizations a time lag of three to five years occurs between making a decision and its impact on the organization. Futurists also believe that virtually anything can be changed in society's organizations, given a lead-time of two decades.

Futurists subscribe to six time frames:

  • Immediate Present - 2 years
  • Short-term 2 - 5 years
  • Mid-level 5 - 10 years
  • Long-range 10 - 20 years
  • Extended 20 - 50 years
  • Distant 50 years & beyond